Flying Along the Cosmic Vela Ridge
A beautiful blue butterfly flutters towards a nest of warm dust and gas, above an intricate network of cool filaments in this image of the Vela C region by ESA’s Herschel space observatory.
Vela C is the most massive of the four parts of the Vela complex, a massive star nursery just 2300 light-years from the Sun. It is an ideal natural laboratory for us to study the birth of stars.
Herschel’s far-infrared detectors can spot regions where young high- and low-mass stars have heated dense clumps of gas and dust, where new generations of stars may be born.
The eye is immediately drawn to two prominent features in this image: a delicate blue and yellow butterfly shape just right of centre that appears to be flying towards a nest of coiled blue material in the lower right.
These regions stand out from their surroundings because their dust has been heated by young hot stars. A cluster of very hot, massive stars are strung out along the butterfly’s ‘body’, their radiation heating up the surrounding dust seen as yellow in this scene.